Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Faced with the Unruly Cosmos

'Summer'--think of summer, and then 'summers', and you find yourself reaching back in memory to all-time-favorite summers from a prime time, long ago as likely as not. I'm given to recalling summers within my first thirty to forty years, not torrid, classical in their degree of comfort for us people and other creatures who historically found ourselves flourishing there. Days were long and balmy, humidity readily drained off in rain somewhere, influential in sky-bursts of luminous clouds as in this poem, Lamp-shades--the Clouds of Dusk, that I wrote in 1996:

              Loud—limp—the wind…
              huge cold shoals of cloud left dark
              to park themselves above us…
              Linger and see what rueful governing’s
              due from their last low glowing.

Summers to come, by contrast, threaten us with a degree and longevity of heat we are unprepared for and loth to imagine.

In my 2-week exhibit coming up in later March this large work, God All Shape and Conduct: Shoreless, (watercolor & gouache, 22 x 30" unframed) is a picture not only of midsummer in Crex Meadows, a piece of western Wisconsin near Grantsburg, Burnett County, mid-continent in North America with a black tern streaking over a linkage of marshy lakes, but of youth venturing unconstrained, as much in body as in fantasy. A painting hand-lettered inconspicuously in neat black characters over the watery foreground, this work was the visualization of my 1988 poem of the same title: 
               I must remember that
               wherever we assemble, overflow,
               and with our wistful whiskers, blow alone
               into canals that disappear under
               the overpasses where today's roads veer
               with pulsing whoops, we mix--a hazy current
               full of crowding islets, blurring the flowage
               with our thoughts' corrosion. Notably--
               should this islet, floating, heave that other, 
               cleaving it, it would impair our gliding 
               clarity, that islet's death damming our stream, 
               granules in confusion teeming to
               take refuge as a platform spanning a
               scattered trickling to our river's panorama.

The panoramic painting incorporating earth's curvature is invariably a throwback to the summers of my teen-aged years and young womanhood, when I could get away to places like  Crex Meadows, wander and sit out looking as the weather formed over vast marshscapes that could be re-conceived as the make-up of the whole land mass as far as the Rocky Mountains.

Though poverty and a  scarcely-limited range of personal hardships are the proverbial bane of a solitaire who never trained into meeting the demands of a lucrative public service--probably at the expense of long hours in a tightly controlled setting--it was then and now my privilege to pass days in a wild setting undertaking artwork in response to visual compulsions I'd experienced in some way or other since childhood.

Much the way summer symbolizes youth blending into prime or heyday, the solo trek in the poem describes a young individual setting forth to distinguish evil where it's challenging to sort it out of dynamic unpeopled space adhering to its own biological laws. Nature "red in tooth and claw" in its everyday functions shows an observer paradoxes like predation suffered by conscious prey and terrors including volcanism, fires and floods. Since these are restorative phenomena that frame eternity, any judgment of them trails off.  So the young idealist is left to describe evils out of controllable personal experience, or second- or third-hand encounters which in societal terms and religious terms have demonstrated punishable evil. And then, in some way that art forms may be best at revealing, evil cited as a facet of the natural order may be compared with evils dealt out and experienced by our own kind, having repercussions within the law and in political systems.

Couldn't a whole art career including the literary arts base itself upon finding the distinctions and common ground between human evil and the forces beyond our public as our whole earth evolves, devolves and transforms however it must?